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'I hope it brightens your day': Fond du Lac hospital receives a piece of history

Hospital postcard
Posted at 7:54 PM, Apr 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-25 21:47:10-04

FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — A piece of Fond du Lac’s history has been returned—thanks to a 94-year-old man from California.

SSM Health St. Agnes Hospital recently received a postcard in the mail along with a note. The postcard from 1918 features St. Agnes Hospital on the front; and on the back, a letter from an uncle to his nephew. The note came from a man named Lowell Joerg from Stockton, CA.

In the note, Joerg said he found the postcard at an antique store and sent it back to his place of origin. He calls this hobby of his a “redistribution of happiness” and says “I hope it brightens your day.”

Joerg also wrote, “My dear wife, now passed, used to laugh at me and say, ‘If you hear from those folks you’ll have to take me to lunch.”

At the end of the letter, Joerg said that his daughter suggested looking him up on Google. A quick search reveals that Joerg has been sending antique postcards to communities across the country.

The image of the hospital meant a lot to the St. Agnes community—of all ages. Kids in the Treffert Academy daycare and folks at the Adult Day Services wrote letters thanking Lowell.

“Oftentimes people in assisted living can be so sick that they're not able to participate or they're depressed, lonely, isolated… and I think it's awesome that he made this hobby to then share with others,” Julie Schwartz, the RN supervisor for the Adult Day Services program, said.

One person who wrote a thank you note was Mary Jane Babcock at the Adult Day Services.

“I had 39 great years working at St. Agnes,” Babcock said. “Thank you for sending that postcard. . . it brings back memories.”

At the Treffert Academy daycare, instructors say this was a great opportunity to teach the kids about spreading kindness.

“Thank you all for being the inspiration here today. We are taking what you do and spreading it along in our own way as well,” Jennifer Thompson, Treffert Academy supervisor, said.

Meg Puddy, manager of Autism Services at SSM Health Treffert Center, said this also boosts the Treffert Center’s mission.

“Kindness is a critical component,” Puddy said. “Compassion for self, compassion for others, self-regulation, and social-emotional skills are our big three that we really look towards to spread kindness and compassion.”

In the letter, Lowell Joerg said he spent about $6 on the card, plus postage. He also mentioned an upcoming birthday. The hospital’s president Katherine Vergos then decided to reimburse him and include the letters as an additional birthday gift.

I just want to thank Lowell for, during a time in our world where we need more kindness and joy, for taking the time out of his life to share that with us,” Vergos said. “And I hope that when he receives our gift back to him, that he can feel some of that joy as well.”

The hospital is now working with the Waupun Historical Society to learn more about the postcard’s history.

After deciphering the now-faded handwriting, Waupun Historical Society President Zac Dickhut found that the postcard was sent from David Stoddart to his nephew George on December 18 of 1918 at 1:30 p.m. Both were residents of Waupun, but David Stoddart sent the postcard from Fond du Lac.

In 2023, it might seem strange to send a postcard about 20 miles from Fond du Lac to Waupun. But in 1918, things were different.

“Travel was very difficult, and was often for the privileged few,” Dickhut said. “So, yes, Fond du Lac to Waupun was, believe it or not, something to write home about.”

Dickhut was also able to find records of the Stoddarts in Waupun.

“The Stoddart family—if it’s all the same family—traces its roots in Waupun back to 1849,” Dickhut said.

As the community looks to learn more about this relic, the hospital hopes to “redistribute” some happiness back to Lowell.

“Any piece that I am able to receive in understanding who came before us and what came before us is always really very special,” Vergos said.

NBC 26 was unable to reach Lowell by phone, but we're taking a page from his book and sending him a letter— in the hopes of talking with him soon.